JOSEPH HAYDN - Lord Nelson Mass

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JOSEPH HAYDN - Lord Nelson Mass - Symphony No. 102 - Boston Baroque - Martin Pearlman (Conductor) - 691062042628 - Released: November 2013 - Linn Records CKD426

Following their highly praised release of Joseph Haydn's The Creation (reviewed here), Martin Pearlman and the Boston Baroque ensemble have now recorded a very fine performance of the same composer's Missa in Angustiis more commonly known as the Lord Nelson Mass. (A strong analysis of this work can be read here). At the time, Napoleon Bonaparte was knocking at the door and the political climate was less than stable. Back in 1798, when this work was written, composers did not have the technical ingenuity or musical aforethought to convey or evoke within music, the multitude and/or various degrees of emotional or psychological imagery that modern composers can muster. But Haydn, clever as he was, managed to instill, right from the very first bars, a sense of fear and anger within the music. For example, the Kyrie of a mass usually sets a plaintive tone, more or less pleading or begging for mercy upon our sinful lives. But in this case, with the added timpani and trumpets, and strict tempo, it "demands" mercy and salvation, not from sins but from outside forces threatening a way of life. Plus it's one of the only parts of the Mass set in a minor key, unheard of back then, which gives it a darker tone. Martin Pearlman and the members of Boston Baroque certainly bring that mood across extremely well, with a brisk and forceful reading. In particular, soprano Mary Wilson is magnificent in this Kyrie and manages to raise the level of drama a few notches all by herself. Bass-baritone Kevin Deas is commanding during the Qui tollis peccata mundi that follows the Gloria. And throughout the various vocal quartets spread out within the Mass, all four soloists, including mezzo Abigail Fischer and tenor Keith Jameson are fully involved and weave through the highly demanding counterpoint with ease. All in all, this is a recording wherein you become so absorbed by the high levels of musicianship and dramatic involvement, that you are not distracted by the technical qualities of the recording, as excellent as these are.

From the booklet notes: "During our first rehearsal of the two pieces on this recording, the city of Boston was jolted by the news of the terrorist bombing at the Boston Marathon. After the wild swing of events during the ensuing days, our first performance was cancelled, due to a lock-down of the entire city. To be involved during that time in the music that Haydn called 'Missa in Angustiis' (translated as 'Mass in anxious times') took on unexpected meaning for our musicians, as well as for our audience. Performing and recording this particular mass provided comfort and release to all of us and made us thankful once again for the greatness and universality of Haydn's genius." {Martin Pearlman}

Jean-Yves Duperron - April 2014